“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” ~ Hamilton Wright Mabie
Since I cheated last week and did my post about “The Window to my Soul,” and not a ” ‘Mynewfavoriteweek’ly Inspiration” post, so this week you will be quite lucky and meet 2 people who I admire very much. Today, you meet Brian, and Saturday, another fabulous woman who’s story makes me think everytime I read it. But for today, we talk the crazy time of year, “the holidays.”
To get into the holiday spirit (and because I LOVE to gather our fabu friends), I’ve decided to host a cozy cocktail party at my new house. As it tends to happen for me who LOVES to entertain and tends to always go bigger than ‘what’s intended’, what started out as “cozy” turned into “fabulous” and I now have 100+ guests coming over to help spread the holiday cheer! So, to ensure that my party goes off without a hitch (and doesn’t break the bank!, see the part when I said this is our new house), I’ve enlisted the help of my dear friend and expert event producer Brian Worley—who never fails to wow!
You may see Brian sneaking around the back of some of my wedding photos that have made their way into a few posts on my blog as he did my wedding, but you also may have seen him, among other places, on “Platinum Weddings,” “Party Monsters,” “Shedding for the Wedding” and most recently in all the press regarding when he planned the summer Polo event that featured Prince William and his new bride Duchess Catherine.
I first met Brian at an American Idol sponsor party when I was doing all the advertising deals that put Coke, Ford, ATT and Apple front and center for all of you at homeJ I was in full on wedding planning mode for our wedding in Mexico that was just 5 short months away and was losing my mind. When I enlisted one of the Fox network girls to introduce me to the fabulous person who did the flowers and created a candy bar (before Candy Bars swept the event scene, you can thank Brian), there was suddenly this very handsome, and warm person telling me exactly what he had done. At that point, he didn’t really know what he was getting himself into, I tend to be rather Type A when it comes to events and Brian still laughs when he says I am the only bride that ever handed him their seating chart in powerpoint (hee hee!)
Fast forward to drinks by the pool, a visit to my hospital room after I delivered the minis, to now where he sits here doing me the honor of allowing me to pick his fantastic brain for my holiday party, I am more than delighted to share his genius with you, even just for this post. At the end of the post, I can share with you more ways to learn from Brian, but for now let’s get back to the smell of evergreen, sparkly lights, lots of candle light (I look much better in candle light) and yummy cocktails!
Shannon: What inspired you to become an event producer?
Brian: Actually, I kind of fell into event production, I moved to LA to do my internships the last year of college and then did the acting thing, worked in production on a number of shows and then met someone who produced events, thought that it sounded like a fun career, started working for him and 13 years later, I fortunate enough to get to produce and design some of the coolest events around, I get to be creative and this also led me to be able to host a few shows. I think I am pretty lucky, I have a career that I love… and it is something that I never knew even existed as a career.
S: What are three (3)things everyone should know about how to plan a memorable event?
B: 1) create an exciting environment that is conducive to lots of mingling and just a great, memorable time.
2)make sure that you as the host also get to enjoy your own party…. prepare as much as possible in advance so that you actually get to spend time with your guests, family and friends.
3) if you are throwing a party, have plenty of food and drink for all your guests and if you are planning to splurge, never cut corners with valet and staff. The last thing that your guests experience when they leave your party is the valet and if you don’t have enough attendants, all the planning and fun they had will be forgotten as they are frustrated waiting for their car ( S: obviously, this part is more for us City folk with limited parking!)
S: I want my party to feel very inclusive for all of my guests. What’s the best theme to go with and is there anything I should steer clear of as far as food or drink or décor?
Most parties tend to have a built in theme, Holiday Party, Birthday Party, Engagement Party, so that is a great place to start when creating a menu, the drinks you will serve and what the decor will be. When I throw a party at my home, I want to make sure that it is easy, I get to enjoy myself as well and I honestly think that in an event where you are gathering your friends and family at your house, the main focus is to have a great time.
I tend to set everything out needed to create a self-serve bar, that way your guests can create whatever drink they would like and the self-serve bar is also a great place for your guests to mingle and get to know someone they may not know already. Anything you can do to make your event interactive makes the evening that much more fun. As far as food to serve, create a menu that requires little attention during the event and that can be prepared ahead of time. Additionally, make sure the food is easy to eat, requires very few utensils if any. Finger foods and food that is one or two bites is the way to go. Cheese plates are great, anything you can keep warm in a crock pot is awesome and room temperature foods that can be set and won’t go bad will allow you to also have fun.
S: What kinds of signature holiday cocktails should I serve?
B: First, will you be hiring a bartender? A bartender is a an expense that is well worth the money, but like I said above, a self-serve bar is also fun for all guests to mix and mingle, it alleviates long lines, especially if you do not have the space for lines. Signature cocktails are fun, but if you do them I would suggest a bartender because you may want to rim the glass with crushed peppermint candy, or garnish with a candy cane. When I create signature cocktails, I always choose something that is the same color as the decor of the event to start. Vodka is always a great starting place… it is clear so it can become any color, but also a liquor that most everyone enjoys.
S: How much alcohol should I plan to provide as an enhancement to punch?
B: Of course it all depends on how much “punch” you want the punch to have, but i suggest that the alcohol is about a third of the mixture, but always taste it before you serve it….
S: How much should I plan to spend on beverages if you include the cost of punch, cocktails and garnishes?
B: This is a difficult question to answer because it all depends on what level of alcohol you want to serve your guests and how many guests you have coming. When we plan events and work with the bar at a venue or bar service, there are different levels, CALL, WELL, PREMIUM, so it depends on how fancy you are. I highly suggest buying all that you can at Costco or SAMS CLUB to help with the pricing as well. Another think to keep in mind, most of your guests will be polite and bring you a bottle of wine as a thank you for inviting them. Serve that wine as well at your bar. You typically get 4 glasses of wine per bottle so that will help to determine how much wine you need. Also, hot chocolate or a hot cider during the holidays is a great drink to serve… of course they can be spiked, but they also give a great aroma for your house.
S: Let’s talk appetizers! If my party starts at 8pm, how much food should I plan to serve my guests?
B: During the holidays, you most likely will be competing with a number of events on the same night, your guests will be coming and going throughout the evening which means they will also have a few nibbles, a drink or two and then be on their way, so plan to have plenty of appetizers for everyone, but also remember that an event that starts at 8 means your guests should already have eaten dinner. Like I said earlier, finger foods are the best and items that don’t require a ton of prep are best because if you start to run low, you can always just replenish. Also, who doesn’t like leftovers… when I create a menu I try to also create it with the idea in mind that there may be leftovers and what would I want to have in my house for the next few days.
S: For 100 people, what’s a reasonable finger-foods-only budget?
B: I think that around $3 a person is a good place to start budgeting, so around $300. Again, this is you doing the work and making the food, etc… When you go to a restaurant or use a caterer, they tent to charge between $2-$5 per appetizer and in this case you want to tray pass those, but when doing the food yourself, your dollar will go a lot further. You can do a nice salmon plate which will serve a large number of people and won’t break the bank.
S: What’s the best way to serve appetizers at a party of this size? Buffet style?
B: Like a self serve bar, I like to serve appetizers buffet style because this is another location for your guests that may not know each other to mingle and make a new friend. We tend to go to an event and hang with the people that we know and if you are tray-passing the appetizers, they your guests will stay in a clump and not venture out. Buffet style also gives your party a central focal point for the party.
S: How much decorating should I do beyond my Christmas tree? What’s your idea of a reasonable decorating budget for an evening cocktail party?
B: The tree is a great place to start, maybe the mantle and from there, if you do have a buffet table with food, that is a nice place to decorate. Last year, I went to the 99 cent store, they had some 2′ tall plastic candy canes, I bought a bunch of them and a few other decor items, placed them in various size vases and had them run down the center of the buffet table. I also picked up a few cake stands that are different heights and used those to add dimension to the table and I use those cake all the time now when I entertain. You don’t have to spend a lot on decorations, fill a tall vase with some left over ornaments from your tree and use the branches from the bottom or back of your tree to also give your table some texture and color.
S: What do you think makes a great holiday party?
B: The best holiday party is where you just enjoy yourself, there is a collection of interesting people, delicious snacks and just a very relaxed and informal atmosphere. During the holidays there are so many events and parties to attend, so I like to know that I can stop in, wish everyone Happy Holidays and get to the next event without feeling guilty that I was not able to stay all evening.
S: Lastly, do you have any tips for making each day a “newfavoriteday”?
B: My advice is just enjoy each day, have fun and surround yourself with people that inspire you! Participate in things that make you happy!
So here you have it…thanks, Brian for helping me and making it ‘myewfavoriteday!’ If you are thinking of planning any parties, I hope you are surrounded by good friends, food and drink, a lots of laughter, all of which can make it ‘yournewfavoriteday!’
For all of you, if you need help or inspiration in planning your upcoming holiday party and would like to get Brian’s advice, head to www.brianworley.com or leave a comment on his blog—where you’ll find Brian’s unique tips on event planning, weddings, green and eco-friendly entertaining, fashion, food, design and much more!